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Ueingartner, Felix 
On conducting 























Herr WEINGARTNER'S "On Conducting" first appeared in 
the "Neue Deutsche Rundschau", Berlin, and then in book 
form in 1895. A second edition, not differing from the first, 
appeared in 1896. The third edition, from which the present 
translation is made, was issued in 1905; it omits -so much 
that was in the first edition, and contains so much that did 
not appear there, as to be practically an entirely new treatise. 
I have added a few notes in order to make a point here 
and there clearer to the English reader. 

E. N. ' 

Under the same title as that of the present volume, RICHARD 
WAGNER published in 1869 his well-known brochure*, 
which, assailing as it did with uncompromising candour the 
most famous conductors of that epoch, drew upon him the 
furious enmity of the persons he attacked. In spite, however, 
of the hatred, open or concealed, of the music-popes whose 
infallibility was assailed, WAGNER'S book laid the foundation 
for a new understanding of the function of the conductor, in 
whom we now recognise not only the external factor that holds 
together an orchestral, choral or operatic performance, but above 
all the spiritualizing internal factor that gives the performance 
its very soul. WAGNER was certainly not the first to realise 
how much depends on the way a piece of music is rendered. 
He opines that the reason BACH rarely marked tempi in his 
scores was because he said to himself, as it were, "If anyone 
does not understand my theme and my figuration, has no 
feeling for their character and their expression, of what use 
will an Italian tempo-indication be to him?" I maintain, on 
the contrary, that the vigorous old master would have been 
incapable of looking at art in this resigned way. I believe 
rather that he so rarely indicated the tempo or gave any 
dynamic marks only because he always had in view his own 
presence at the performances. If we picture to ourselves a 
BACH performance in his own lifetime we must think of himself 
at the organ with his little band of musicians round him. 

1 "Cber das Dirigieren." The book was translated into English 
in 1887 by Mr. EDWARD DANNREUTHER. Mr. ASHTON ELLIS'S version 
appears in Volume IV of his translation of WAGNER'S complete Prose 
Works. [Tr.] 


How many of his innumerable cantatas, now assured of im- 
mortality, must in his own day have been sung just once, on 
the Feast-day for which they were composed, whereupon 
the manuscript went into the drawer "with the others", and 
for the next Feast-day the inexhaustible Cantor wrote a new 
one! His Suites and Concertos, again, are to be regarded 
as chamber-music works at whose production he himself or 
a privileged pupil sat at the clavicembalo; the "Well-tempered 
Clavier" and the Sonatas were intended as studies. Why 
should he waste time in noting down instructions for execution ? 
It always rested with him to give the correct tempo, and to 
explain to the musicians the interpretation he wanted. The 
mighty teacher of the Thomas-School certainly never anticipated 
a collected edition of his works, in preparing which the edi- 
tors were often greatly puzzled by the careless figuring of 
the bass which again shows that he knew the execution 
of the continue* to be in trusty hands; nor did he anti- 
cipate concert productions of them with large orchestras and 

How much MOZART considered the question of interpretation 
is to be seen in the careful way he has marked his works 
(especially his latest), and from many passages in his letters. 
It is not improbable that in Mannheim he heard for the first 
time an orchestra that could really play crescendo and dimi- 
nuendo. Even our best orchestras of to-day need to be con- 
stantly told that the increase and decrease of tone is to be 
done evenly and gradually, not suddenly; and the difficulty 
of doing this increases with the number of bars over which 
these variations in volume have to be extended. "Diminuendo 
signifies forte, crescendo signifies piano* ', said BULOW. This 
is only a seeming contradiction, since to play forte at the 
beginning of a crescendo, and piano at the beginning of a 
diminuendo, really means the negation of crescendo and dimi- 
nuendo. We know that not only MOZART, but WEBER, MEN- 
DELSSOHN and SPOHR were excellent conductors, and that each 

1 The "continue" or "basso continue" is the equivalent of the 
English thorough-bass. [Tr.] 

of them, from his own artistic standpoint, fought energetically 
against abuses and errors of taste. How WAGNER did this is 
shown among other things in the book of his I have men- 
tioned. This, however, with all its perfect outspokenness, 
seems quite mild when we read the flaming words with which 
BERLIOZ opens his treatise on "The theory of the conduc- 
tor's art". He says: 

"Singers have often been reproached with being the 
most dangerous of the factors concerned in the production 
of music; but, I think, unjustly. The most formidable 
intermediary is in my opinion the conductor. A bad singer 
can spoil only his own part, while an incompetent or ma- 
licious conductor can spoil everything. The composer must 
indeed count himself fortunate when the conductor into 
whose hands he has fallen is not both incompetent and 
malicious; for against the destructive influence of such a 
man nothing can avail. The most excellent orchestra is 
crippled by him; the finest singers are perplexed and ex- 
hausted; there is no longer any ardour or precision in the 
rendering. Under conducting of this kind the composer's 
finest audacities become mere oddities; enthusiasm is killed; 
inspiration comes precipitately to earth; the angel's wings 
are clipped; a genius is made to look like an eccentric 
or a madman; the godlike statue is thrown from its pede- 
stal and dragged in the mud. The worst of it is that the 
public, no matter how good its musical education may be, 
is not in a position, at the first performance of a new 
work, to detect the mutilations, stupidities, errors and sins 
against art that such a conductor has on his conscience." 
What experiences BERLIOZ must have had for this wild 
cry to be drawn from him can be estimated from the single 
fact that a conductor who in the first half of the nineteenth 
century occupied a really foremost position, and of whom 
both WAGNER and BERLIOZ spoke with the warmest acknow- 
ledgement, that HABENECK of Paris, as BERLIOZ tells us, 
conducted not from the score but from a violin part, a custom 
to-day confined to beer-garden concerts with their waltzes and 
pot-pourris. Yet HABENECK, by means of diligent rehearsals 

with the orchestra of the Conservatoire, must have given per- 
formances of a technical perfection that as a rule could not 
be met with in Germany at the same time; WAGNER con- 
fesses that it was from HABENECK'S rendering that he first 
really understood BEETHOVEN'S Ninth Symphony, after having 
received at the Leipzig Gewandhaus such confused impressions 
of it that for a time he "had his doubts" even about BEET- 
HOVEN himself 1 . Like so many things in WAGNER'S writings, 
these "doubts" must not be taken literally, for a musician 
of his rank must have been able to judge from his know- 
ledge of the score of which indeed he had made a 
manuscript copy for himself how much of the confused 
impression was due to the work and how much to the render- 
ing. The fact remains, however, that a bad interpretation 
can not only completely deceive the uninstructed but also 
prevent the instructed from listening with full sympathy. I 
still remember in the early eighties, when I was a pupil at 
the Leipzig Conservatoire, to have heard some performances 
by the splendid Gewandhaus orchestra, which, through the 
fault of its half solid, half elegant conductor, answered so 
little to the ideas I had formed for myself of the works in 
question, that I preferred not to stay to the end of many of 
the performances, so as not to have my precious picture 
marred. Of course I did not "have doubts" about any of 
our masters. Only my longing increased to be able at some 
time to render the works as I felt them. As I gave im- 
prudently outspoken expression to this desire and to my 
dissatisfaction with what I heard, it was looked upon as un- 
warrantable self-glorification on my part. However, as BULOW 
soon afterwards appeared with the Meiningen orchestra, people 
then realised what was meant by a finely-balanced ensemble', 
and I heard much agreement expressed with what I had 
previously maintained. The impression of BULOW'S inter- 
pretations must have kindled in our Leipzig conductor a spark 
of that temperament that had been long extinguished under 

1 See Mr. ELLIS'S translation of WAGNER'S Prose. Works, vol. IV, 
pp. 300-302. [Tr.] 

the ashes of convention, for at one of the concerts given 
after the visit of the Meiningen band he played the great 
"Leonora" overture in a quite surprising way. It was espe- 
cially noticeable, however, that he did not imitate BULOW'S 
arbitrarinesses, of which I shall speak later but let 
the work unfold itself in great- featured simplicity. And as 
his was the larger and better orchestra, the effect was such 
that the generally rather reserved audience broke out into a 
huge exclamation of joy, that even surpassed the storms of 
applause that had been given to BULOW. In a few minutes 
the Zopf 1 was blown away as by a breeze from heaven, alK 
arbitrariness was banished, and BEETHOVEN spoke to us without ) 
commentary. This experience was very instructive to me. * 

When WAGNER, after .his first Parisian sojourn, came to 
Dresden as conductor, he had learned from HABENECK to 
what perfection orchestral performances can attain under con- 
scientious guidance; and from all we have learned of him as 
conductor, from himself and from others, he obviously aimed 
in his own performances not only at correctness but at bring- 
ing out that to which the sounds and notes are only the 
means. He sought for the unifying thread, the_psyehological 
line, the revelation of which suddenly transforms, as if by 
magic_.a_ more jjrHesjL indefinite sound-picture into a beauti- 
fully shaped, heart-moving vision, making people ask them- 
selves in astonishment how it is that this work, which they 
had long thought they knew, should have all at once become 
quite another thing, and the unprejudiced mind joyfully con- 
fesses, "Yes, thus, thus-; must it really be". Out of the 
garment of tone there emerges fae^jizit-irf~the-~~a}'twork; its 
noble countenance, formerly only confusedly visible, is now 
unveiled, and enraptures those who are privileged to behold 
it. WAGNER calls this form, this quintessence, this spirit of 
the artwork its melos, which term, later on, was perverted by 
inability to understand WAGNER'S own creations into "endless 
melody". His desire to make this melos stand out clearly 

1 The German term "Zopf" literally "pigtail" is used to 
denote a pedantic, obsolete style in art. [Tr.] 


carried him so far that in some places in BEETHOVEN'S works 
where he held the evident purpose of the composer to be 
not fully realised in the orchestration, whether because 
the instruments at BEETHOVEN'S disposal were imperfect, 
or because his increasing deafness sometimes clouded his 
perception of the relations of the various orchestral timbres, 
he discreetly altered the orchestration, touching it up so as 
to bring the hitherto unclear melody into due prominence. 
Of course the music-popes and wretched literalists screamed 
anathema. It is certainly open to question whether all these 
retouchings were happy and deserving of imitation; there is 
no doubt however that he very often hit upon the right 
thing. I believe, for example, that nowadays no conductor 
who can think at all will play the Rinth Symphony without 
WAGNER'S instrumental emendations; the vocal changes, on 
the contrary, I look upon as both purposeless and tasteless 1 . 
Added to this desire for clarity in WAGNER was the pas- 
sionate temperament with which, aided by a keen understand- 
ing, he threw himself into his work; he brought to it also a 
faculty of immediate^ f.nmmu*iifntigp with the players and im- 
position of his will on them, in a word that genius which, 
in spite of other acknowledgments, he had to deny to HABE- 
NECK, but which made some of his own performances histo- 
rically memorable, in spite of the perishable nature of all 
reproductive art. There is no performance of genius possible 
without temperament. This truth must be perpetually insisted 
on, notwithstanding that SCHOPENHAUER has voiced it distinctly 
enough. Temperament, however, can be given neither by 
education, nor conscientiousness, nor, by the way, by favour; 
it must be inborn, the free gift of nature. Therefore per- 
formances of genius can only receive recognition either by 
another genius, just as the height and beauty of a moun- 
tain are best appreciated from another summit, or by that 
naive instinct, often found among non-artists and the people, 

1 See WAGNER'S article on "The Rendering of BEETHOVEN'S Ninth 
Symphony, in Vol. V of Mr. ELLIS'S translation of the Prose Works. 



that gives itself up spontaneously to the beautiful. But they 
are quite incomprehensible to those "aesthetes" who consider 
them as problems of the understanding and would solve them, 
like a mathematical problem, by analysis, incomprehensible 
not only because temperament is an endowment of the heart, 
not of the understanding, but also because the curb that the 
artist has to put on his temperament has to be directed by 
head and heart, not by the former alone. Hence in most 
cases critical aesthetic and aestheticising criticism pass un- 
deserved censure honest as the intention may be, on 
performances of genius, and only gradually attain to the cor- 
rect view when the naive instinct to which I have referred 
has given its final verdict, and disparagement would now be 
like flying in the face of a plebiscite. Artistic truth bears a 
prophetic, critical truth a posthumous character; from this 
comes that blind adulation we sometimes see especially 
in cases where the earlier condemnation had been particularly 
strong that will not allow the slightest weakness to be 
pointed out in the idol. 

I regret that I never saw WAGNER conduct. He was 
described to me; the body, of no more than middle-height, 
with its stiff deportment, the movement of the arms not im- 
moderately great or sweeping, but decisive and very much 
to the point; showing no restlessness, in spite of his vivacity; 
usually not needing the score at the concert; fixing his ex- 
pressive glance on the players and ruling the orchestra im- 
perially, like the WEBER he used to admire as a boy. The 
old flautist FURSTENAU of Dresden told me that often, when 
WAGNER conducted, the players had no sense of being led. 
Each bl?lTeved~~rlmTsetf"~to~ "b~e~ folio wing" "freely his own feeling, 
yet they all worked together wonderfully. It was WAGNER'S 
mighty will that powerfully but unperceived had overborne 
their single wills, so that each thought himself free, while in 
reality he only followed the leader, whose artistic force lived 
and worked in him. "Everything went so easily and beauti- 
fully that it was the height of enjoyment", said FURSTENAU; 
and the eyes of the old artist gleamed with joyful enthu- 


After WAGNER had given up regular conducting he sought 
to transfer his feeling, his insight and his power to some 
younger, plastic spirits in whom they might live on. His 
plan of an ideal school, where singers and conductors of the 
type he desired should be trained 1 , was not realised owing 
to the indolence of his contemporaries. A few young musi- 
cians associated themselves with him, to whom he now im- 
parted of his spirit. Of these, the oldest is the most signi- 
ficant his intimate friend, at that time his most faithful 
champion , his alter ego , as he himself once called him 
the master-conductor HANS VON BULOW. After a comparatively 
short co-operation they had to part company, and BULOW' s 
star first shone brilliantly again when in 1880 he became 
chief of the Meiningen orchestra. A year later the Duke, 
whose scenic art had already effectively influenced the dramatic 
theatre, sent him off with the orchestra on a grand concert- 
tour through Germany, Austria and Russia. Seldom has such 
a victory of mind over matter been seen. A rather poorly- 
appointed orchestra, by no means absolutely excellent in its 
proportions, conquered everywhere the large orchestras, famous 
the whole world over as possessing the best artists; this was 
the work of the eminent conductor, who a second Leo- 
nidas had the courage to defy with a small troop of 
admirably schooled players the big musical armies that were 
mostly led by ordinary time-beaters. By dint of diligent, 
indefatigable practice he had so infused into the orchestra 
his own conception of the works as to get a perfection of 
ensemble at that time unknown. The most scrupulous rhythm- 
ical exactitude was united with so artistic a balance of the 
various timbres, that the question whether this or that player 
was the better, or whether this or that peculiarity of the 
conductor was justifiable, could scarcely be raised. The or-^ 
chestra seemed to be a single instrument, on which BULOW 
played ^s on a pianoforte. 

1 WAGNER'S "Report to His Majesty King Ludwig II of Bavaria 
upon a German Music-School to be founded in Munich" is translated 
in Mr. ELLIS'S fourth volume. [Tr.] 

T -5 _____ 

These concert-tours of the Meiningen orchestra were of 
inestimable significance. Those whom it concerned recognised 
that it would not do to go on simply beating time and play- 
ing away with the old reprehensible carelessness and thought- 
lessness, for that would certainly lower them in the eyes of 
the public, which, after once having nibbled dainties at the" 
table of the great, would no longer be content with canteen- 
fare. So these people first of all took pains to cultivate the 
orchestra better on the technical side, held more rehearsals^ 
followed more conscientiously the dynamic indications, and 
in general gave more attention to accurate ensemble. The 
capability of orchestras has since then greatly increased, and 
composers to-day can set problems that even a few years ago 
would have seemed insoluble, while at the same time a better 
rendering of the works of the old masters has been made 
possible. These things represent the gain from BULOW'S work, 
and make his name an ineradicable landmark in the evolution 
of the art of conducting; to him alone, after those great 
composers who themselves were notable conductors , we owe 
the diffusion and the strengthening of the consciousness that 
conducting is an art and not a handicraft. 

But BULOW'S work had also its harmful features, for which 
the guilt lies both with himself and a number of his fol- 
lowers; and to expose these and attack them is as much a 
duty of sincerity as to acknowledge the gains with frank 
delight. In the first place, it cannot be denied that even 
while he was leader of the Meiningen orchestra there was 
often to be detected a pedagogic element in BULOW'S render- 
ings. It was clearly seen that he wished to deal a blow on 
the one side at philistine, metronomic time-beating, on the 
other side at a certain elegant off- handedness. Where a 
modification of the tempo was necessary to get expressive 
phrasing, it happened that in order to make this me difi cation 
quite clear to his hearers he exaggerated it; indeed, he fell 
into a quite new tempo that was a negation of the main one; 
The "Egmont" overture was a case in point. WAGNER tells 
us 1 , a propos of this motive 

1 See "About Conducting", pp. 332, 333, in Mr. ELLIS'S fourth vol. [Trj 



which, as he says, "is so drastic an epitome of terrific 
earnestness and placid self-confidence", and which, as a rule, 
"was tossed about like a withered leaf in the uncontrollable 
rush of the allegro" that he induced BULOW to play it 
in the true sense of the composer, modifying "ever so little" 
the hitherto passionate tempo, "so that the orchestra might 
have a proper chance to accentuate this dual theme, with its 
rapid fluctuation between great energy and thoughtful self- 
content". All who have heard this overture under BULOW 
must agree with me that at the place in question he by no 
means made "ever so little" a modification, but leaped at 
once from the allegro into an andante grave, thereby destroy- 
ing the uniform tempo that should be preserved in the allegro ^"7 
of the overture, as in general in every piece of music that I 
has a uniform tempo-mark at the beginning. The proper 
expression can be obtained without any change of the main 
tempo, be it "ever so little" if the strings, who have 
the first two bars of the theme, are told to bring them out 
energetically and very precisely by a uniform down-bowing of 
the crotchets, thus preventing the last quaver of the first bar 
from being turned, as often happens, into a semiquaver, 
whereby indeed, as WAGNER says, the effect of a dance-step 
is given; and when we consider that the tempo of the main 
part of the overture is just allegro, not vivace, there can be 
no danger of an "uncontrollable allegro-rush" if the tempo is 
correct. It is a common source of trouble that introductions 
are taken very slowly and the main sections very fast, and 
the numerous gradations of these broad tempo- differences 
scarcely observed. We often hear the beginning of the Seventh 
Symphony taken adagio, whereas it is marked poco sostenuto\ 
the finale of the Fourth Symphony is usually taken presto, 


whereas the humour of the movement only comes out when 
attention is given to BEETHOVEN'S marking, which is "allegro 
ma non tanto" . The introduction to the "Egmont" overture 
is marked sostenuto, ma non troppo , which does not at all 
signify an actually slow tempo; while the next section is 
marked allegro, that only increases to allegro con brio at the 
end, which again, however, does not imply an immoderately 
rapid tempo. The maintenance of an essentially easy tempo 
just suits the tragic weight of the work, that is completely 
destroyed by hurrying. The only way I can express the dis- 
tinction between the introduction (that should be taken with 
three moderate beats), and the main portion, is that one bar 
of the 3 / 4 section is about equivalent to a minim, and so to 
a third of a bar in the 3 / 2 section, whereby the crotchets at 
the entry of the allegro do not become about half what they 
are in the introduction. In this way any ritenuto at the place 
in question is superfluous, and the "terrific earnestness" of the 

and the "calm self-confidence" of the two following bars are 
made perfectly clear 1 . 

WAGNER quite rightly contended against the scherzo-tempo 
in which it had become usual to take the third movement 
of the Eighth Symphony, and claimed that it should go in 
comfortable minuet-time. Under BULOW, however, I heard 
this movement played so slowly that its humorous cheerfulness 
was replaced by an almost disagreeable seriousness. 

1 This passage will become clearer to the reader if he will refer 
to the score of the overture. If the tempi recommended by Herr WEIN- 
GARTNER are adopted, it is evident that since one bar of the allegro = 
a third of a bar of the introduction, three crotchets in the former = 
one minim (or two crotchets) in the latter. The allegro is thus faster 
than the introduction in the proportion of 3 to 2. By abstaining from 
taking the allegro so fast that the proportion would be as 4 to 2, the 
tempo is not rapid enough to need any "holding-back" at the place 
WAGNER discusses. [Tr.] 


It certainly belies the titanic character of the "Coriolan" 
Overture when, as usually happens, the chief theme 



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and all that follows it are taken in a flying presto instead of 
allegro con brio\ but BULOW began it almost andante and 
then increased the tempo until the pause in the seventh bar, 
to begin again andante and accelerate the sequence in the 
same way. In the first place, taking the incredibly charac- 
teristic theme in this way robs it of its monumental strength ; 
in the second place, I hold that if BEETHOVEN had wanted 
these subtleties he would have indicated them, since he al- 
ways gave his directions for performance with the greatest 

** B PLOW'S purpose as such was always clearly recognisable 
and also quite correct. It was as if he said to his audience, 
and more especially to the players: "This extremely significant 
passage in the "Egmont" Overture must not be scrambled 
through thoughtlessly; the comfortable, easy-going minuet of 
the Eighth Symphony must not be turned into a scherzo ; the 
main theme of the "Coriolan" Overture must be given out 
in a way conformable to the dignity of the work." But in 
the effort to be excessively clear he often went too far. His 
quondam hearers and admirers will recollect that often when 
he had worked out a passage in an especially plastic form 
he turned round to the public, perhaps expecting to see some 
astonished faces, chiefly, however, to say "See, that's how it 
should be done!" But if the Venus of Melos, for example, 

were suddenly to begin to speak, and to give us a lecture 
on the laws of her conformation, we should be a good deal 
sobered down. Art-works and art-performances exist only 
for the sake of themselves and their own beauty. If they 
pursue a "tendentious" aim, even though this should be in- 
structive in the best sense, the bloom goes off them. From 
"tendencies" of this kind BULOW'S interpretations were seldom 
quite free. Thence came also his proneness to make details 
excessively prominent. In an art-work, indeed, no one part 
is of less significance than another, and each detail has its 
full raison d'etre, but only in so far as it is subordinated to 
a homogeneous conception of the essential nature of the 
whole work, - - a continuous conception that dominates all 

It is this homogeneous conception of the essential nature 
of a musical work that constitutes what there is of specially 
artistic in its interpretation; it originates in a deep feeling 
that is not dependent on the intellect, that cannot, indeed, 
even be influenced by this, while it itself must dominate 
everything that pertains to the intellect, -- such as routine, 
technique, and calculation of effects. If this feeling is not 
strong enough , then the intellect usurps the foremost place 
and leads, as was often the case with BULOW, to a propensity to 
ingenious analysis. In the contrary case the feeling becomes 
unwholesomely powerful and leads to unclearness, false sen- 
timentality and emotional vagueness. If neither feeling non 
intellect is strong enough, then we get, according to the 
prevailing fashion, either mere metronomic time-beating or a 
senseless mania for nuance, a mania that chiefly prompted 
me to write this book. Neither, however, has anything to do 
with art, which is at its best when that exceedingly delicate 
balance, more a matter of intuition than of calculation, 
is attained between the feeling and the intellect, which alone 
can give a performance true vitality and veracity. 

Here I must digress to contradict sharply an opinion that 
has considerable vogue. The_Jnterpj:e4;er - - in our case the 
conductor is not able to increase the worth of a work; 
he can merely diminish this occasionally, since the best that 

WEINGARTNER, On conducting. 2 


he can give is simply a rendering on a par with the real 
value of the work. He has done the best that is possible 
if his performance expresses just what the composer meant; 
anything more there is not and cannot be, since no con- 
ductor in the world can, by his interpretation, make a good 
work out of a bad one. What is bad remains bad, no matter 
how well it is played; indeed, a particularly good performance 
will bring out the defects of a work more clearly than an 
inferior one. The remark: "The work owed its success to 
its excellent interpretation" contains a half-truth, since the 
interpreter is entitled to the recognition of his undoubted 
deserts; but the composer has a still higher right, for it was 
he who made it possible for the interpreter to achieve a suc- 
cess with the work. If however the critic inserts in the above 
sentence a "solely" or "exclusively", then he either falls into 
an error arising from the pre-conceived opinion I have spoken 
of, or else he indulges in a piece of dishonesty in order to 
depreciate the success of composers he does not like un- 
less, which is indeed the more convenient course, he prefers 
to ignore this success altogether. How often, for example, 
have we heard this ludicrous phrase repeated, since some 
modern conductors recognised their duty and played BERLIOZ'S 
works in a proper manner? The deeper impression now made 
by the works could of course not be denied; but the credit 
for the greater effect they made had to go entirely to the 
conductors, not to the works themselves, to which people 
were, and indeed in some quarters still are, as unfavourably 
disposed as of yore. But what had the conductors done, 
except .by means of their interpretation brought something 
into the light that had really been there all the time? That 
of course is a great merit; but it must not be exploited to 
the disadvantage of the composer, who made what the inter- 
preter could only reproduce. "Yet", it has been and perhaps 
will be objected, "we can listen to BEETHOVEN and MOZART 
even when badly played; but BERLIOZ is only enjoyable when 
so-and-so conducts him." This, I take leave to say, is an- 
other great mistake, for in the first place BEETHOVEN and 
MOZART, badly played, are likewise unenjoyable; the public 


however has heard these works so often and played them 
more or less efficiently on the piano, that it can discover the 
familiar beloved features even in a performance that disfigures 
them can even perhaps imagine these features when they 
are barely recognisable; which is naturally impossible in the 
case of a work it does not know, such as a rarely-given 
composition of BERLIOZ or a novelty. But how feeble is the 
applause one usually hears after an indifferently played classical 
symphony, in comparison with the uncontrollable enthusiasm 
aroused by an artistic interpretation of the same work! Then 
the masterpiece appears in its true form; to be able to 
make this true form visible, however, is the sacred task of 
the conductor, and to have fulfilled it is his only honour- 
able nay, his only possible glory. A good performance 
of a poor work is of no artistic consequence, and regrettable 
both because it furthers bad taste and because it means time 
and labour unprofitably squandered. The reverse case to 
perform a good work badly is inexcusable. Equally in- 
excusable is it, however, to set up off-hand the interpretation 
against the work in cases where both have contributed to 
make the artistic impression. To do this is to exhibit the 
conductor's function in a wholly false light, to put him, in 
comparison with the composer, disproportionately into the 
foreground, and merely serves to inflict as much harm as 
possible on the latter; wherefore it is generally done with 
that specific end in view whether as a mere echoing of 
personal or partisan prejudice, or as a result of some of 
those sinister currents that run so strongly beneath our artist- 
life, and against which the individual has often a bitter fight. 
The effort to escape this fight, or at least to lessen it as 
much as possible, gives rise to the mania for founding 
"Unions" and "Societies", which, on the principle of manus 
manum lavat, may sometimes turn these currents to their own 
profit, sometimes nullify them. If Stauffacher's saying "United, 
even the weak become strong" is true for those who work 
merely for the success of a day, yet for eternity, i. e. for the 
kingdom of free and progressive souls above time and space, 


Tell's quiet, splendid answer is always true, "The strong 
man is strongest when alone". 

The pedagogic element I have referred to in BULOW'S 
performances became more prominent in the last years of his 
life ; it was linked with a capriciousness that was probably 
increased by his physical sufferings and his consequent spiritual 
distemper. This capriciousness led him into eccentricities 
that had no object, not even a pedagogic one, and that could 
have been thought fine only by those who, having quite lost 
the capacity for thinking for themselves, fell at BULOW'S feet 
in blind idolatry, and pocketed his insults submissively when 
he now and then treated them as they deserved. Through 
his habit of making speeches at his concerts he committed 
such errors of taste that it was difficult to maintain un- 
impaired the feeling of esteem that could in the most heart- 
felt way be given to the earlier BULOW. It was sad to see 
the public rushing to his concerts with the question "What 
will he be up to to-day?" 

I would gladly spare myself the ungrateful work of 
enumerating some examples I myself saw of his eccentricities, 
if it were not necessary later on to speak of their results. 
In a performance of the Ninth Symphony in Berlin he began 
the first movement remarkably fast, and not until the entry 
of the main theme 

did he adopt a broader tempo. In these chords, however 

/' f ~^7 

he suddenly became almost twice as slow, and remained so 
until he came to this passage, 



* 4-. 4- 4- 4-4-. T 

9-' -- 


when he }ust as suddenly went off again into quite a fast 
tempo. What was the object of these unmotived, spasmodic 
derangements of the tempo? In the same performance of 
the Ninth Symphony I heard him render the wonderful, pas- 
sion-free andante melody of the third movement with the 
following nuances'. 

Andante accelerando molto accelerando 

molto crescendo 

molto ritenuto 

ff mollo diminuendo 

making it sound like some ardent love-lament out of an 
Italian opera. The truth is that BEETHOVEN'S markings of 
"espressivo" and "crescendo" are to be interpreted discreetly, 
in a delicate sense consistent with the nature of the whole 
movement | any disturbance of the tempo must be completely 
bad. One of those idolators I have mentioned, to whom I 
expressed my surprise at this downright odious treatment of 
the divine melody, replied to me, "Yes, yes, you are right, 
but BULOW is BULOW; he may do anything". O blind fetish- 
worship and uncritical adulation, what harm have you not 

In the oboe solo in the Trio of the Scherzo, he altered 
a C to B in the second bassoon part without any reason, 
whereby the rather harsh but extremely characteristic pro- 
gression of the bass was made weakly chromatic. A simil- 
larly quite unmotived and enfeebling substitution was that of 


a characterless D for the energetic C at the beginning of the 
great violin - passage in the third "Leonora" Overture. The 
Eighth Symphony he once began very quickly, took the 5th, 
6th, and jth bars quite slowly, then in the 8th bar came back 
to his opening tempo. And so on. 

The impression given by performances of this kind was 
that not the work but the conductor was the chief thing, and 
that he wanted to divert the attention of the audience from 
the music to himself; so that finally there was nothing to 
admire but the readiness with which the orchestra followed 
him in his sometimes singular fancies. 

One of these was the cause of a complete rupture between 
BULOW and myself. I made his personal acquaintance in 
Eisenach, where he and the Meiningen orchestra gave a concert 
I shall never forget, at which there was a very impressive 
rendering of BEETHOVEN'S C minor Symphony. Here I had 
the honour to be presented to him by LISZT. He interested 
himself in me, later on gave a little composition of mine for 
string orchestra, and, the post of conductor at Hanover being 
then vacant through the death of ERNST FRANK, recommended 
me without success, to his friend BRONSART, the director. 
When the post of second conductor in Meiningen became 
open through the departure of MANNSTAEDT, I applied for it, 
hoping to learn a good deal by working under BULOW. I 
went to see him in Berlin about it. He spoke at once of 
my application, and said to me literally: "I cannot make use 
of you; you are too independent for me. I must have some 
one who will do absolutely only what / wish. This you could 
not and would not do." I fully agreed with him, of course. 
He then advised me not to turn up my nose at the most 
unimportant post if only I were independent so far as 
this is possible in the theatre and above all had no other 
conductor over me. Thereupon we separated. Two years 
later we met in Hamburg. He had engaged himself to the 
director POLLINI to conduct thirty opera-performances in the 
season 1887/8; I was engaged as permanent conductor there. 
The first opera that he took up was "Carmen". I am still 
convinced, and was so from the first moment, that at that 


time he was bent on the joke of trying what you can palm 
off on the public if you bear a famous name, a practice 
that has unfortunately found its counterpart to-day in the field 
of composition. He took almost all "Carmen", that is so 
full of passion and piquancy, in a tempo that was often in- 
tolerably slow and dragging, the beginning, for example 

Allegro giocoso = 116. 

* * . *"* -*"t-t- 

almost andante, and Escamillo's song 

= 112. 

Auf in denKampfTo - re - ro! 

downright adagio. He further foisted on the work so many 
nuances , "breath-pauses" , and the like , that it would have 
greatly astonished Bizet to have heard his opera thus given. 
BULOW had the satisfaction of knowing that his joke succeeded 
completely. His admirers and the critics agreed that now 
for the first time the true and only right conception of "Carmen" 
was given to the world. This opinion indeed found some 
support in the fact that the ensemble was faultless and the 
opera given without cuts, which were unusual things at the 
Hamburg Stadttheater. When questioned about his remarkably 
slow tempi, BULOW replied that "he intended in this way to 
suggest the dignity of the Spaniards". This remark, that was 
merely a jest and not a particularly good one, also met with 
general admiration, except from me. I soon found an 
opportunity to confirm my opinion by acts. BULOW being 
prevented from conducting "Carmen" once, it fell to my lot 
to do so, and later on to alternate with him. It was absolutely 
impossible for me to imitate him, and , against my own con- 
victions, to take the opera in his style. I therefore held a 
rehearsal of my own, and conducted as I felt was right, in 


accordance with the instructions of the composer, in a generally 
lively tempo, without any affected nuances, to the joy of the 
orchestra and of such singers as dared to express their opinion. 
After I had conducted two performances, BULOW ran to POLLINI, 
complained that by my "arbitrary notions" I would spoil the 
opera for him, and insisted that I should not conduct it any 
more. POLLINI told me of this in the friendliest way, and, 
with the excuse that he did not want to fall out with the 
always irritated BULOW, turned "Carmen" over to a colleague, 
who was very proud to take the opera "just like BULOW". 

Could BULOW really not see from this much- discussed 
affair that he was blaming me for his own fault, since not 
I, who restored the unequivocal directions of BIZET, was the 
arbitrary one, but he, who had disregarded them? At any 
rate he never forgave me for having been sharp enough to 
see through his joke, and having dared to be "independent" 
with regard to him; and whereas on my arrival in Hamburg 
he had received me very cordially, he now lost no oppor- 
tunity of showing his displeasure with me, which culminated 
in a public expression of his antipathy to me in full view 
of the audience, during some performances that I conducted. 
Nor was his temper towards me any more friendly when some 
years later in Berlin I tried to exert an influence on the 
Symphony Concerts; his jeering remarks, however, in which 
he gave free play to his wrath against me, and which his 
friends took good care should be spread abroad, necessarily 
kept me out of his company, much to my regret. Nothing 
could prejudice the admiration I had for what was great in 
him. In the present book, however, I hope that by separat- 
ing the insignificant and the paltry I have shown his great- 
ness in its true light; and while I steadfastly maintain a 
standpoint in many respects contrary to his, I render what 
objective history will some day render to this most successful 
furtherer of that art of conducting that WAGNER brought into 
new being honour and respect. 


I once saw this aphorism in a humorous paper: "Nothing 
misleads us more than when a wise man does something 
stupid, since it is just this that we are apt to imitate in 
him." A true saying, true at all times and especially in the' 
present day. It characterises in vigorous words that epigonism 
that is not able to comprehend a great personality as a whole, 
yet wants to do as it does, and believes it can attain this 
by imitating this or that feature of it. But it is just the 
significant and characteristic features that cannot be imitated, 
since these pertain to genius alone, and to each genius again 
in a particular way. So much the more zealously, however, 
are the seeming and often even the real weaknesses of emi- 
nent minds imitated, since it is only in these that the great 
man has any actual affinity with the dullard. When WAGNER 
finally broke with the form of the so-called grand opera, that 
had been degraded to a mere superficial show, and built the 
musical drama out of poetic purposes, people ought to have 
seen that it needs a stupendous capacity to cast in one piece 
an entire Act, - - in which the music flows on without a 
break, while not only is the dialogue replaced by recitative, 
but a symphonic development answering to the logic of the 
poem runs through the Act from beginning to end, and 
further to bind the separate Acts together in the right re- 
lation to each other, that this is surely much harder than 
to write a succession of arias, duets, ensembles and finales 
without any musical connection between them, so that the 
composer could, if he pleased, begin as the old masters did 
at the end or in the middle, the demand for logical devel- 
opment and treatment extending no further than the narrow 
sphere of each separate and relatively short number. What 
was it, however, that after WAGNER had gradually become 
popular stimulated modern Germany to composition ? Not 
at all the reflection whether and how the problem posed by 
him could be worked out to a still further solution, but the 
apparent casting of form to the winds in the Wagnerian 
drama. Before that time anyone who wanted to write an 
opera had to master thoroughly musical structure and form. 
This they could as a matter of fact all do ; even the non- 


geniuses wrote in a quite solid style. Nowadays almost 
everyone who has learned to orchestrate a little, but is hardly 
able to put a pure four-part piece together, thinks he must 
write a "music-drama". That deliverance of the opera from 
senseless convention for which WAGNER longed and worked 
is regarded by these people as the emancipation of their 
own ego from the obligations of studying seriously, practising 
counterpoint, and being sternly critical of their own work. 
WAGNER has sanctioned formlessness, has discarded arias and 
ensembles; therefore away with arias, away with ensembles, don 
the biretta gaily and give your fantasy free rein to declaim 
as it likes! Use as much brass as possible, divided strings, 
stopped notes and harp-glissandi , pile up the most unusual 
harmonies and modulations, and there you are! I am the 
last to deny the inevitability of a kind of WAGNER-epigonism ; 
I fell into it indeed myself in my first two attempts at opera, 
about twenty years ago. Neither do I misjudge the relative 
value of some of the modern music-dramas that have sprung 
directly from his influence. A force of such vehement re- 
volutionary power as WAGNER, at once strong and tenacious, 
is bound to leave deep traces behind it, and a new dramatic 
style in music will develop with all the more difficulty in 
proportion to the impossibility of eliminating from such a 
style the essential part of the Wagnerian reform. WAGNER'S 
world of feeling and his view of life may come to be alien 
to us, and later on we may also bring the most objective 
criticism to bear upon his work; but that he has shown the 
obvious gulf between the dramatic art and the form of the 
old opera, even in its masterpieces, this will remain his 
enduring service, from which no dramatic composer of the 
future will be able to get away, even though his own works 
may be quite independent. He only is original who remains 
natural, and to have made it possible to be natural in the 
musical drama is the great step signified by WAGNER'S 
achievement. But I am astonished how little the real signi- 
ficance of this step has hitherto been understood, and there- 
fore how little influence so pregnant a phenomenon as WAGNER 
has had on the choice of opera-poems, which lay at the very 


root of his reformatory work. It is really lamentable how 
many accomplished musicians have squandered much painful 
and often clever work on texts the impossibility of which 
could have been seen at a glance by anyone with an eye 
for the stage. Much better to have no more operas at all 
than the poetical monstrosities that are to-day set to music. 
So long as there is any truth in the judgment that "the music 
is good but the text bad", I cannot believe the style is ori- 
ginal, or even a worthy following in WAGNER'S footsteps. 

It must be acknowledged that in all these WAGNER- 
imitations, even in the weakest, there is one ideal feature, 
namely the effort to draw close to a great exemplar. Not 
only the great, however, but the little and the paltry are 
also copied if they are successful, especially in our present 
industrial epoch , when the royalty has become the guardian 
angel of art. What was it but the plenteous royalties brought 
to its author by a work like "Cavalleria Rusticana", on 
the quality of which I will not enlarge here that called 
forth in Germany, the land of BACH and BEETHOVEN, a verit- 
able deluge of musical "one acts" compounded of adultery, 
murder and homicide? Sad as this was, one really blushed 
to see a German Court even offer a prize for the "best" of 
these wretched imitations, and actually divide it between two 
composers. The prize should have gone by rights to the 
Parisian public, which, while. Germany crawled on its belly 
to "realism", had the good taste to decline to have anything 
to do with it. 

It almost goes without saying that the striking phenomenon 
of such a conductor as HANS VON BULOW was bound to lead 
to imitations. A whole tribe of "little Billows" sprang up, 
who copied the great BULOW in everything they could his 
nervous movements, his imperial pose, his stabs with the baton, 
his furious glances at the audience when anything disturbed^ 
him, his half instinctive, half demonstrative look round a.i 
some special nuance, and finally the nuances themselves. His 
concert-speeches alone no one dared to imitate. I have ven- 
tured to label this kind of conductor, whose manner was a 
more or less complete caricature of his master's, the "tempo- 


rubato conductor". WAGNER speaks of "elegant" conductors, 
at the head of whom, whether with justice I rather doubt, 
he puts MENDELSSOHN , - - conductors who skip in the 
fastest possible tempo over passages that are difficult and at 
first sight obscure 1 . The tempo-rubato conductors were the 
exact opposite to these; they sought to make the clearest 
passages obscure by hunting out insignificant details. Now 
an inner part of minor importance would be given a signific- 
ance that by no means belonged to it; now an accent that 
should have been just lightly marked came out in a sharp 
sforzato; often a so-called "breath-pause" would be inserted, 
particularly in the case of a crescendo immediately followed 
by a piano, as if the music were sprinkled with fermate. 
These little tricks were helped out by continual alterations 
and dislocations of the tempo. Where a gradual animation 
or a gentle and delicate slowing-off is required often how- 
ever without even that pretext, a violent, spasmodic ac- 
celerando or ritenuto was made. The latter was more frequent 
than the former, since as a rule the tendency to drag, 
thanks to the sport that has been for some time carried on 
in Bayreuth with drawn-out tempi 2 was stronger than the 
passion for whipping-up. When the tempo was whipped up, 
however, one received about the same confused impression 
of the poor dishevelled work that one gets of the parts of 
the landscape lying nearest the railway track when one whizzes 
past in an express. 

I would here insert a rule, the observance of which I hold 

to be indispensable for a right apprehension of the limits of 

-^N tempo: No slow tempo must be so slow that the melody of 

1 See Mr. ELLIS'S translation of "About Conducting", in WAGNER'S 
Prose Works, Vol. IV, pp. 295, 296, 306 308. WAGNER says MENDELS- 
SOHN himself informed him that "a too slow tempo was the devil, and 
for choice he would rather things were taken too fast", because "things 
might be glossed over" by "covering the ground at a stiff pace". [Tr.] 

2 Herr WEINGARTNER considerably annoyed the Bayreuth partisans 
by some remarks in the first edition of this book, contending, for ex- 
ample, that if BULOW had been given control there after the death of 
WAGNER certain abuses would not have been allowed to grow up. 

2 9 

the piece is not yet recognisable, and no fast tempo so fast 
that the melody is no longer recognisable. 

The rhythmic distortions to which I have referred were 
in no way justified by any marks of the composer, but al- 
ways originated with the conductor. With reference to the 
sforzati I have mentioned, however, I will cite the apt remarks 

"A conductor often demands from his players an exagger- 
ation of the dynamic nuances, either in this way to give proof 
of his ardour, or because he lacks fineness of musical per- 
ception. Simple shadings then become thick blurs, accents 
become passionate shrieks. The effects intended by the poor 
composer are quite distorted and coarsened, and the attempts 
of the conductor to be artistic, however honest they may be, 
remind us of the tenderness of the ass in the fable, who 
knocked his master down in trying to caress him." 

I would add the admonishment always to observe most 
precisely whether an accent comes in a forte or in a piano 
passage, which will determine quite different grades of strength 
and expression for it. It is also of the utmost importance 
whether a siiccession of accents occurs in a passage proceeding 
in uniform loudness, or during a crescendo or diminuendo, in 
which latter case the accents also must of course have their 
own gradual increase or decrease. Obvious as this may 
seem, it is necessary even with good orchestras to point out 
emphatically where the accents come, and so prevent their 
being continually hammered out in the one style. 

If many of the above-mentioned errors could be supposed 
to be "proofs of ardour" and of good intention, it was in 
the end regrettable that by the behaviour, artistic and per- 
sonal, of some "new-modish Billows" so much attention was 
directed to the person of the conductor that the audience 
even came to regard the composers as the creatures, as it were, 
of their interpreters, and in conjunction with the name of a 
conductor people spoke of "his" BEETHOVEN, "his" BRAHMS, 
or "his" WAGNER. Of the works played in this eccentric 
way, however there was often little more left than of a plant 
that the professor of botany has dissected, and whose torn 


leaves, stamens, and pistils, after being demonstrated to the 
students of the college, lie scattered about on the desk. 
Thus I once heard the '"Hebrides" Overture of MENDELS- 
SOHN played with literally not one bar in the same tempo 
as the rest. Even the second and fourth bars, which are 
repetitions of the first 

^ f 
and the third 


were "characterised" as against these by means of a point- 
edly different tempo; and the same kind of thing went on 
to the end. All that was humanly possible in the way of 
the unnatural was done, with the result that the lovely work 
was deformed and its real character obliterated. Certainly it 
would be just as false to play one crotchet after another with 
metronomic uniformity; but the modifications of the tempo, 
some of which MENDELSSOHN himself has indicated, should 
be done in such a way as not to dismember the organic 
character of the whole thing its "melos", the right com- 
prehension of which, as WAGNER aptly says, gives also the 
right tempo. At one moment the sea flows quietly round 
the rocks of Fingal's Cave, at another a stronger wind pro- 
duces higher waves and the white foam of the breakers beats 
more strongly against the beach, but the picture of the 
landscape remains the same, and there is nothing in MENDELS- 
SOHN'S overture of an actual, formidable storm that could 
imprint on the scenery a radically different stamp. The at- 
mosphere of gentle, noble melancholy that lends the Hebrides 

their peculiar charm is also preserved in the music. Is it 
then not a matter for vigorous censure when something that 
a master has sincerely felt and expressed in faultlessly 
beautiful music is distorted by the irresponsible additions of 
a conductor? 

"To what end is all this?" I asked myself in amazement 
on these and many other occasions. Why this inordinate 
desire of some conductors to turn musical works into something 
other than what they really are? Whence this aversion to 
maintaining a uniform tempo for any length of time? Whence 
this rago for introducing nuances of which the composer never 
thought? The reason for these curious phenomena was mostly 
the personal vanity that was not satisfied with rendering a 
work in the spirit of its author, but must needs show the 
audience what it "could make out of this work". The con- 
ductor's mania for notoriety was thus put above the spirit of 
the composer. The parading of this vanity was due partly 
to a misconception of the better side of BULOW'S work, which 
founded on WAGNER; partly to a clumsy imitation of the 
palpable weaknesses and uncalled-for caprices of his later 

The following instance was communicated to me by a 
friend. BULOW had played the G minor Symphony of MOZART 
with the Meiningen orchestra, and had produced a deep im- 
pression by his temperate handling of the chief theme 

==? =j-f 


-> 2 

that is sometimes taken thoughtlessly fast, and by his very 
expressive phrasing throughout the movement. The permanent 
conductor of the town in question - - plainly stimulated by 
BULOW'S success having later on to conduct the same 
symphony, informed his acquaintances that he would now take 
the tempi exactly like BULOW, and at the performance, at 
which my friend was present, played the first movement 
andante throughout. The beautiful butterfly, fluttering gently 
on a summer's day over the sadly inclined campanula, was 
transformed into a clumsy grasshopper! This was a case 
of misunderstanding and an overdoing, probably well-meant, 
of BULOW'S version. But it was otherwise with what, to my 
horror, I had to listen to in the Pastoral Symphony. In the 
"Scene at the Brook", for example, in the following passage 


j= --f- _ --f- ^x :<-^ P 

iil Q Z*l__)_^^ wj p^-S ^J!L 

? -^ X^ -l->>wi ?C^ -?-i 

tr ---- ~ 

& - - - 2 

?> i ^"Ccrttr 

the conductor made in the second bar a strong ritenuto and 
after the last quaver quite a "breath-pause", so that a com- 
plete interruption ensued, and the third bar, detached from 
the second, came in without any connection. The same thing 
happened again in the corresponding passage in the recapit- 
ulation. After the performance I tried to convince the con- 
ductor of the wrongness of his interpretation, pointing out 
to him that just as it would be impossible for a rippling 
brook suddenly to be made to stand still, so it was unnatural 
to interrupt arbitrarily the flow of the music at this point. 
To my astonishment I got the answer: "I really don't like 
it myself, but the people here are so accustomed to it like 
this from BULOW that I take it in the same way". I thought 


it useless to make any further effort on behalf of truth and 
nature, since here it was not a case of misunderstanding, but 
of a conscious imitation of an admitted fault. This is a sample 
of the most evil feature of that manner of conducting against 
which I am contending, since the man's own conviction was 
here sacrificed and the work knowingly disfigured to comply 
with the habit of the public, and in fear of incurring dis- 
pleasure by flying in the face of this habit. In many other 
cases the trouble mostly came from unconscious defect of 
artistic feeling, and a certain fumbling after something fine 
without being quite able to achieve it, - - much as the good, 
childlike ANTON BRUCKNER wrote a "Ninth" Symphony also 
in D minor and would also have a chorus for the last move- 
ment, in which however the "good God" to whom he had 
dedicated the work wisely prevented him by opportunely re- 
calling him to the celestial land. 

BCLOW, by his arbitrarinesses, had drawn more attention 
than was necessary to his person, and was unfortunately often 
commended for that very reason, and praised as "clever". 
These arbitrarinesses had now to be not only copied but 
exaggerated ; i.e., the tempo had to be dislocated not only 
where BULOW had done so but as often and as violently as 
possible , breath-pauses had to be introduced , extraordinary 
behaviour had to be indulged in on the platform in a 
word, BULOW out -Billowed in the external features of his 
conducting, so as to win the same or if possible greater 
successes than he. To make their own, however, just that 
in virtue of which BULOW was really great, - - the deep 
seriousness with which (a few exceptions apart, such as the 
"Carmen" case I have mentioned) he took his calling, the 
prodigious zeal and the restless devotion with which, even in 
his last years, when his powers were no longer at their height, 
he strove to give the most finished performances possible, 
which were indeed often so perfect that one could forget his 
personal peculiarities, - - all this was certainly denied to his 
imitators. Indeed I have often doubted whether those who 
wanted to be so "ingenious" really knew properly the works 
they were playing. When I saw that somebody was in- 

WEINGARTNER, On conducting. ^ 


capable of letting one tempo grow out of another, but made 
every change with a jerk, or that he began what should have 
been a long and slow crescendo with an explosive fortissimo, 
so that nothing was left over for the finish, this in my opinion 
pointed not only to a want of proper feeling but also to an 
insufficient study of the work; being surprised and confused 
by some passage he had not properly thought out the con- 
ductor either flew over it, or else, through would-be "tem- 
perament", made too sudden a rush at the crescendo and 
spoilt it. 

The difficulty of getting a good ensemble in the tempo- 
rubato manner is all the greater when the conductor goes 
touring. BiJLOW for some years directed only the Meiningen 
orchestra, and afterwards only the Philharmonic orchestras in 
Hamburg and Berlin. He knew these through and through, 
and the players, who understood him thoroughly, followed him 
in every detail, so that even his caprices were rendered with 
faultless technique. But a conductor who comes before a 
strange orchestra and wants to take the works not in their 
natural way - - wherein the feeling of the players will al- 
ways assist him - but to distort them, has not the time, in 
the few rehearsals that are usually allowed him, to elaborate 
properly all these ritenuti, accelerandi, little fermate, and 
breath-pauses by which he hopes to make an effect; and so 
it may happen that some of the players follow the conductor 
and the others their natural feelings, and the greatest am- 
biguity results. It has struck me that eccentricity of this kind 
has been carried to further extremes in foreign tours than in 
our own country, apparently because the public abroad is 
supposed to be more easily imposed on. At least I have 
found in the orchestral parts abroad some markings which, 
had I not seen them with my own eyes, I should have thought 
impossible. Having often been asked by the players, before 
the rehearsal, whether I would adopt this or that peculiar 
nuance of one of my predecessors, I generally found it neces- 
sary to say categorically: "Ignore all markings; follow only 
the printed instructions as to phrasing". Since in spite of 
this there were misunderstandings, owing to the parts being 


in many places so covered with "readings" that the original 
was obliterated, I often protected myself later on by taking 
my own copies with me. 

The saddest part of the business was that the chief arena 
chosen for all these varieties and experiments was our glorious 
classical music, especially the holiest of all, that of BEETHOVEN, 
since BULOW had acquired the reputation of a master-con- 
ductor of BEETHOVEN, and his followers wanted to outbid him. 
even there; though one would have thought that reverence 
to say nothing of love for this unique genius would have 
put all vain thoughts of this kind to flight. 

To take only one example, how the C minor Symphony 
has been tampered with! Already the gigantic opening has 
brought into being a whole crowd of readings, notably that 
according to which the first five bars (with the two fermate] 
are to be taken quite slowly. Even the "spirit of BEETHOVEN" 
was cited to justify this misguided attempt at emendation, 
for which, however, not BEETHOVEN'S spirit but that of his 
first biographer, SCHINDLER, is entirely responsible. SCHIND- 
LER, the key to whose character, I think, is sufficiently given 
by the fact that after the master's death he had visiting cards 
printed with the title "Ami de BEETHOVEN", has told in his 
biography so many anecdotes whose untruth has been proved 
by THAYER, that we may unhesitatingly reckon among them 
the story that BEETHOVEN wanted the opening of the C minor 
symphony to be taken andante, and the faster tempo to come 
only after the second fermata. Is there even a moderately 
satisfactory explanation why BEETHOVEN, instead of specifying 
so extremely important a change of tempo, should have 
marked the passage allegro con brio when what he wanted 
was andante^ LISZT'S opinion on the point will be of inter- 
est. In the previously-mentioned concert of the Meiningen 
orchestra in Eisenach , where I made BULOW'S personal ac- 
quaintance, he took the opening of the C minor symphony, 
that time at least, in a brisk allegro - - LISZT told me that 
the "ignorant" and furthermore "mischievous fellow" SCHIND- 
LER turned up one fine day at MENDELSSOHN'S, and tried to 
stuff him that BEETHOVEN wished the opening to be andante 


- 36 - 

pom, pom, pom, pom. "MENDELSSOHN, who was usually so 
amiable," said LISZT laughingly, "got so enraged that he threw 
SCHINDLER out -- pom, pom, pom, pom!" 

Near the end of the first movement there is at one place 
a five-bar group - 

Now whether we look upon the fourth bar of the second 
group (the pause) as a short fermata and the first bar of 
the succeeding five-bar group as the up -take -- according 
to which there then comes another four-bar sentence or 
whether we take it that the opening theme of the allegro 
occurs in the recapitulation the first time thus - 

and the second time with an extra bar, thus - 


ll owever we calculate the thing mathematically, in either case 
the short breathless silence and the ensuing outburst of the 
chord of the diminished seventh become, just by their pro- 
longation, terrific, gigantic, powerful, menacing, overwhelming, 


volcanic. It is like a giant's fist rising from the earth. Will 
it be believed that almost everywhere I found the indescrib- 
able effect of this passage simply destroyed, either by a bar 
of the diminished-seventh chord or by the pause itself being 
struck out? 

The most tasteless rhythmic distortions, the most absurd 
breath-pauses, have been calmly indulged in in order to appear 
interesting; the result has been, however, to turn a supreme 
stroke of genius into a mere piece of irregularity; because the 
thing must go as a four-bar phrase. O sancta simplicitasl 
The offenders always father their audacities on BULOW. I 
cannot believe he had so many sins so answer for 1 . 

Towards the end of the same movement, in the passage 
where the chords come rattling down like devastating masses 
of rock, 

I found the two sforzati corrected to an elegant piano, and 
a delicate diminuendo marked before them, making the passage 
like an elegiac sigh. 

1 Not long ago I discovered indeed something that made me 
doubtful as to BULOW'S understanding of BEETHOVEN, namely, his ca- 
denzas to the G major concerto. Of all the delicate works of BEET- 
HOVEN'S middle period this is perhaps the most delicate. The themes 
are spun out of perfume and light, the treatment of them is full of 
chaste, refined charm; it has an atmosphere of immaculate maidenliness 
that suggests the perfume of lovely flowers. BULOW wrote for it 
two cadenzas explosive, full of virtuosity, "leit-motivic", soulless, 
unmelodious that have the effect of verses by JOSEF LAUFF dove- 
tailed into a poem by GOETHE. In Paris, where unfortunately I could 
not prevent the performance of them, since I knew of them for the 
first time at the final rehearsal, a humorist asked me after the concert 
whether the pianist had made a mistake and interpolated cadenzas be- 
longing to a piano concerto by TCHAIKOVSKI. 

- 38 

I freely admit that I have never been fully satisfied with 
the rendering of the second movement of this symphony under 
any conductor but BULOW. BEETHOVEN marks it andante con 
moto. The older conductors overlooked the "con moto"' and 
played the movement andante', the modern ones, on the other 
hand, appear to see only the "con moto", and drop into an 
allegretto, thus giving the wonderful theme 

Andante con moto. 

a dance-like character that is quite alien to its nature. My 
own conception of it, in which the andante is maintained 
while the con moto is regarded as the spiritual breath that 
unites and animates the movement, I cannot adequately ex- 
press in words; I must refer to the performances I am per- 
mitted to give of the work. 

I may mention a tragi-comic incident I once witnessed 
in this movement. After the conductor had begun in the 
usual allegretto, he played these bars - 



i" ^-+4 

in so slow a tempo that he had to beat each semiquaver of 
the triplet separately! But enough of these examples. 

I need mention no names in order to point out that 
several conductors of importance have refused to have any- 
thing to do with these perversions of style. I may also say 
that my remarks refer for the most part to an epoch now 
somewhat removed from ours. When I published this book 


in 1895, my object was to try to show how much the art 
of conducting had developed up to then, since the time when 
WAGNER had given it a new basis both by his deeds and 
his words. If on the one hand a decided progress could be 
noted , - - greater competence in the orchestra , a more per- 
fect ensemble, more feeling for vital phrasing than hitherto, 
thanks to BULOW and some excellent conductors who had 
become great under WAGNER'S direct influence, - - on the 
other hand there was imminent danger that the vanity, egoism 
and caprice of younger conductors should make fashionable 
a style in which the masterpieces of music should be merely 
pegs on which to hang a conductor's own personal ca- 
prices. This is . all the more dangerous as an audience with 
little artistic education may, in its astonishment, take the ar- 
bitrary for the genuine thing, and, its healthy feeling once 
perverted, always hanker after these unsound piquancies, so 
that finally it thinks the trickiest performance the best. WAG- 
NER'S treatise combated the philistinism that suffocated every 
modification of tempo and therefore all vitality of phrasing 
in a rigid metronomism; my own book on the other hand 
combated the errors that had arisen through exaggeration of 
these modifications after the necessity for them had gradually 
come to be admitted. It was therefore no plagiarism of 
WAGNER'S, as was of course asserted, but its counterpart, or, 
if you will, its continuation in the spirit of our own day. 
If WAGNER opened new paths, I believed it my duty to warn 
people against mistaking a senseless trampling of the grass 
for progress along new paths. 

But when I saw that my conduct was looked upon merely 
as unprofessional and prompted by the desire for self-exalt- 
ation, that my right to enter into literature was denied, and 
that in the end, in spite of the rapid spread of my book, 
all I had fought for was wilfully ignored and I myself 
described as the worst of the tempo-rubato conductors, I con- 
soled myself with GOETHE'S fine saying, that it more becomes 
the good man to do the right than to be concerned whether 
the right is realised. So in the first place I sought by con- 
scientious self-education to remove from my own conducting 


everything that, externally and internally, might savour of 
false attempt to be a "genius", and laboured to become an 
ever more faithful interpreter of the masters by intimate com- 
prehension of the peculiar style of each of them. I had the 
joy finally to succeed with what I had recognised as right. 
My taste must indeed have received thereby a powerful 
purification, which alienated me from many things I had thought 
significant, and drew me towards many things that I had mis- 
judged. In the last few years I have heard very little. I 
sometimes see in the journals one of the younger conductors 
specially praised for his "simple" and "grand" readings, from 
which I conclude that the "tempo rubato" is not at such a 
premium as formerly, and that its unhealthy excrescences re- 
present a fashion that is gradually dying out if not yet quite 
extinct. We know however that fashions may return, and so 
when a third edition of this book was called for, I felt that 
I ought not to shirk the trouble of a careful revision, and 
then send it out into the world once more. 

Some demands that I made at that time on every con- 
ductor I still hold to be valid to-day, wherefore I repeat 
them here: 

The conductor must before all things be sincere towards j 
the work he is to produce, towards himself, and towards the 
public. He must not think, when he takes a score in hand, 
"What can I make out of this work?" but, "What has the 
composer wanted to say in it?" 

He should know it so thoroughly that during the per- 
formance the score is merely a support for his memory, not 
a fetter on his thought. 

If his study of a work has given him a conception of his 
own of it, he must reproduce this conception in its homo- 
geneity, not cut up into pieces. 

He must always bear in mind that the conductor is the 
most important, most responsible personality in the musical 
world. By good, stylistic performances he can educate the 
public and promote a general purification of artistic per- 
ception; by bad performances, that merely indulge his own 

vanity, he can only create an atmosphere unfavourable to 
genuine art. 

To have given a fine performance of a fine work should 
be his greatest triumph, and the legitimate success of the 
composer his own. 

To this I will add the remarks of two masters who were 
themselves great conductors. In a letter to the music director 
PRAEGER of Leipzig, WEBER, after having expressed himself 
on the subject of indispensable modifications of tempo, goes 
on to say: "The beat (the tempo) must not be like a tyran- 
nies.! hammer, impeding or urging on, but must be to the 
music what the pulse-beat is to the life of man. 

"There is no slow tempo in which passages do not occur 
that demand a quicker motion, so as to obviate the impression 
of dragging. 

"Conversely there is no presto that does not need a quiet 
delivery in many places, so as not to throw away the chance 
of expressiveness by hurrying." 

He continues immediately, however: 

"But from what I have here said, for heaven's sake let 
no singer 1 believe himself justified in adopting that lunatic 
way of phrasing that consists in the capricious distortion of 
isolated bars, and gives the hearer the same intolerably pain- 
ful sensation as the sight of a juggler violently straining all 
his limbs. Neither the quickening nor the slowing of the 
tempo should ever give the impression of the spasmodic or 
the violent. The changes, to have a musical-poetic signific- 
ance, must come in an orderly way in periods and phrases, 
conditioned by the varying warmth of the expression." 

He concludes: 

"We have in music no signs for all this. They exist only 
in the sentient human soul\ if they are not there, then there 
is no help to be had from the metronome which obviates 
only the grosser errors nor from these extremely imperfect 
precepts of mine, which, considering the extent of the subject, 

1 Of course the same thing holds good of the conductor. 

[Author's Note.] 


I might be tempted to pursue much further, were I not warned 
by painful experiences how superfluous and useless they are 
and how liable to be misconstrued." 

WAGNER also was afraid of his remarks on this point 
being misunderstood and thereby giving occasion for exag- 
gerated phrasing. After having devoted to the necessity of 
artistic modifications of tempo almost the whole of his treatise 
on conducting and many other passages in his writings, he 
expresses the following opinion, in which, when we survey the 
post-BiJLow period, we must admire his prescience: 

"It is certainly a really valid warning against these (to 
me) necessary modifications in the cases I have named, that 
nothing could harm the works more than capricious nuances 
in phrasing and tempo, which, by opening the door to the 
whims of every vain and self-complacent time-beater who 
aims at "effect", would in time deform our classical music 
beyond recognition. To this, of course, no reply is possible 
except that our music must be in a bad way when such 
fears can be entertained; since it is as good as admitting 
that we have no belief in a power of true artistic conscious- 
ness among us, against which these caprices would at once 

be broken." l 

* * 

There remain some special points for me to discuss, - 
in the first place, conducting from memory. 

This makes a great impression on the audience, but I do 
not place too high a value on it. In my opinion a conductor 
may really know a work by heart and yet fear that his memory 
may play him a trick, either through pardonable excitement 
or some other disturbing influence. In such cases it is always 
better to use the score; the audience is there to enjoy the 
work, not to admire the memory of the conductor; T re- 
commend doing without the score only "when knowledge of 
it is combined with such a masterv of oneself that reference 

1 See Mr. ELLIS'S translation, in WAGNER'S Prose Works, Vol. IV, 
PP- 336, 337- [Tr.] 


to it is more a hindrance than a help, and the conductor, 
though he may read a page now and then, yet feels that to 
use the score throughout the whole work would be putting 
a needless fetter on himself. It is all a purely personal matter, 
however, that has nothing to do with the perfection of the 
performance. If the conductor is so dependent on the score 
that he can never take his eyes from it to look at the play- 
ers, he is of course a mere time-beater, a bungler, with no 
pretension to the title of artist. Conducting from memory, 
however, that makes a parade of virtuosity is also inartistic, 
since it diverts attention from the work to the conductor. 
Now and then we see a conductor put a score on the stand 
although he conducts from memory, his object being not to 
attract too much attention a proceeding that I think com- 
mendable. But I hold that it is entirely the conductor's own 
concern whether he will use the score or not. A^jrood per- 
f nf > srore has-jfalue; a bad one done from 

memory has none_ For instrumental artists also, playing from 
memory is in my opinion a matter of quite secondary im- 
portance; it can be done by anyone who has a quick and 
reliable memory. But if a player has difficulty in learning 
by heart, it is better for him to devote his time to mastering 
the intellectual and technical structure of the piece and to 
play from a copy at the concert, than to be in continual 
dread of a lapse of memory and of having either to stop or 
to pad with something of his own, which means disfiguring 
the work. I have even heard BULOW, who had a remarkable 
memory, "improvising" in this way in his piano recitals. Here, 
as in so many other cases, it only needs someone with the 
courage to begin and the others will follow. 

BULOW, in his witty way, divided conductors into those 
who have~th~eir heads in the score and those who have the score 
in their heads. I might distinguish them, perhaps rather more 
cTeeply, by means of the following antithesis some con- 
ductors see only the notes, others see what is behind the notes. 
Then again there are conductors whe destroy the unity of a 
work that is one and indivisible, and others who can shape 
the apparently fragmentary into a unity. 


Some conductors are reproached with making too many 
gestures - - not without reason, for the mechanical element 
in conducting is by no means beautiful in itself, and the 
black dress-coated figure with the baton -wielding arm can 
easily become ludicrous if the arm gesticulates wildly instead 
of leading the men, and the body also twists and curves in 
uncontrollable emotion. A pose of assumed quiet is how- 
ever just as repellent. In our music there are, thank God, 
moments when the conductor must let himself go if he has 
any blood in his veins. An excess of movement is therefore 
always Jbetter than jts opposite , since at any rate as" a 
rale, it indicates temperament, without which there is no 
art. We should not laugh at a talented young conductor 
whose vehemence prevents him bridling himself, but exhort 
him in a friendly way to keep his body quiet, and to train 
himself not to make any more movements than are necessary. 
The expression of each passage will then generate an appro- 
priately great or small motion of the baton. A complete har- 
mony between music and gesture will indeed only come 
with the years ; but as a general thing it may be pointed out 
that short, quick motions ensure greater precision than very 
extensive ones, since in the time taken up by the latter the 
strictness of the rhythm may easily be deranged. 

A further question, much discussed at one time and even 
now and then to-day, is the relative artistic value of touring- 
conducting. What indeed can there be to object to if the 
same conductor secures excellent performances to-day in 
Dresden , for example , and a little while afterwards in 
Petersburg? A "question" arises only when the performances 
are less good by reason of the touring. If however the public 
the whole world over has opportunities of hearing the great 
violinists, pianists and singers, one cannot understand why it 
should be denied it to listen to the orchestral interpretations 
of notable conductors. There are two ways of managing 
this. Either the conductor travels alone, and in many cases 
performs with an orchestra that he does not regularly con- 
duct, or he travels with an orchestra that is permanently 
under him, or at least exclusively at his disposition for the 


tour in question. The latter plan appears to be preferable, 
on account of the perfect understanding between orchestra 
and conductor and the absence of the necessity for fatiguing 
rehearsals when once the tour has begun. It has however 
this disadvantage, that the greater expense of the transport 
and maintenance of a whole orchestra necessitates a great 
number of concerts - - generally one every day - with 
numerous repetitions of the same programme, since, a great 
part of the day being often spent in travelling, it is impos- 
sible to rehearse new works during the tour. The absence 
of rehearsals indeed obviates some physical fatigue, but on 
the other hand intellectual lassitude seizes upon both con- 
ductor and orchestra when the same piece has to be played 
too often , in addition to which there is the physical ex- 
haustion of the travelling. As varied programmes as possible, 
and as short railway journeys as possible, together with proper 
comfort not only for the conductor but for the players, are 
factors not easily to be managed to which the orga- 
nisers of such tours must before all things attend, if they are 
to serve not merely business but art. 

The conductor who tours alone must take care that ad- 
equate rehearsals are allowed him, the number of which will 
depend upon the quality of the orchestra, the degree of his 
familiarity with it, and the difficulty of the programme. A 
mere "getting-through" with the concert and,. pocketing of 
the fee is a sin against art, whether at home or abroad; on 
the other hand conductors who are above the feeling of 
offended amour propre or foolish rivalry can under this system 
get into closer touch with and stimulate each other, learning 
from each other in every way to the ultimate enriching of 
art. Moreover it must be recognised that the two great con- 
cert organisations in Berlin, and latterly also the Vienna 
Philharmonic concerts, are now in the hands of visiting con- 
ductors, and that no intelligent person will try to infer from 
that fact any diminution in the value of those concerts. 

I have so far spoken only of conducting in the concert- 
room, not of that in the theatre. That is a chapter in itself, 
and unfortunately not a pleasant one. The conductor of a 

- 46 

small concert-society in a small town has generally at his 
command a fair if not a strong orchestra and a tolerably 
well-taught chorus, with which two factors, given much in- 
dustry and some ability in the conductor, really good per- 
formances can often be given. Now and then such perform- 
ances in the smaller towns, - - not so-called "music-centres" 
are surprisingly good. I may mention as an instance the 
chorus and orchestra at Chemnitz in Saxony. At the theatres 
in small towns, however, the great obstacle to all artistic 
effort is the horrible singer-proletariat, which, like so many 
other afflictions, is a product of this nervous, hurrying epoch 
of ours, when every one wants to get money and glory as 
quickly as possible, but scarcely considers whether he is real- 
ly doing anything good. If nowadays a decent voice ap- 
pears anywhere, there is not, as formerly, a long course of 
years devoted to its training and to the general artistic 
education of its fortunate possessor, but the singer takes les- 
sons, often for not more than half a year, from the first 
teacher that comes to hand. Then some leading parts suit- 
able to his range of voice are drummed into him by a 
chorus-master. He learns how to bring off some dazzling 
tours de force, but in every other respect sings as incorrectly 
and unintelligently as possible, and generally acquires no 
knowledge at all of what his role in the opera signifies or 
what the opera is all about. Afterwards he falls into the 
agents' hands and is sold to the theatres, of which there are 
some hundreds in the German -speaking territories. So the 
poor devil is usually sent first of all to a little theatre, where 
he draws a miserable salary that is scarcely enough to live 
on; out of this, however, he has to pay the agent a per- 
centage which, if not much in itself, means quite a handsome 
sum to the agent because of the number of theatres he pro- 
vides. The agent grows fat, but art goes to ruin. Scarcely 
has the novice got an engagement when it is a case of "On 
to the stage!" At best he gets a piano- rehearsal and now 
and then an orchestral rehearsal, so as to have an inkling 
of how to find his way about. No part gets more. Often 
he really does not know what he has to do, and stands in 


despair by the prompter's box, where he sings his notes, as 
far as he knows them, with awkwardly sprawling arms and legs. 
He meets with malicious colleagues, who have knocked about 
for many years on the "world-significant" boards and have 
no voice left, but know the ins-and-outs of the stage and 
make use of this knowledge to trip up the novice who has 
a voice, especially if a trace of talent is suspected in him 
that later on may be dangerous to them. For some years 
he wanders from one wretched stage to another, and at last, 
sun^-out, tired out, sick of the paint, his rosy hopes de- 
ceived, he looks round for a business in which he can get 
employment. With women, whom passion or need has driven 
to the stage, it often goes still more sadly. To comparative- 
ly very few of them, who happen to be both talented and 
lucky, does a better lot fall. Add to this that in the small 
theatre orchestras there are four first violins, one contrabass, 
and one viola-and-a-half, for one of the two is usually to 
be reckoned only as half; that the chorus numbers perhaps 
ten men and ten women; that the decorations and scenery 
are in tatters; and with material like this "Fidelio", "Frei- 
schiitz", "Zauberflote" , "Tannhauser" and "Lohengrin" are 
given nowadays even the "Nibelungen". It is quite clear 
that under such conditions there can be no question of con- 
ducting as an art. 

But even at the larger municipal theatres, where the singers 
are of better quality and often highly paid and the orchestra 
is finer, art is sometimes difficult to detect, since too often 
a man is at the head who has no notion of art, but uses 
the complicated apparatus simply to fill his own pockets. 
The most unscrupulous exploitation of forces is not unusual 
in these theatres, and the "Herr Director" can finally so 
arrange things for himself that he loses nothing if a member 
has worn himself out as the result of the excessive demands 
made upon him and no longer stands at the height of his 
capacity. The way in which the earlier theatre-agreements 
permitted one to be given up body and soul to incredible 
caprice can be estimated only by one who, like myself, has 
been in the sad condition to have to subscribe to such 


agreements. Much has indeed been done by theatrical unions 
in conjunction with high-minded and intelligent theatre-direct- 
ors; but much remains to be done. Is it then surprising 
if singers who have the melancholy certainly of losing, through 
a comparatively short illness or even through an obstinate 
indisposition, their bread for perhaps a month, if not alto- 
gether, take care of themselves and try to retain their vocal 
powers as long as possible? Since this cannot be done, 
however, if they are to do their almost daily work properly, 
they reserve themselves for especially important represen- 
tations, e. g. premieres, "guest"-engagements, evenings when 
the press attend, and so on. For the rest, however, they 
take things easily, often simply sing at half voice, and do 
their work very negligently. Indifference, that direst foe of 
all art-activity, has become master. What can the conductor 
do with a wearied, ill-humoured lot of assistants? He soon 
resigns himself to beating through his usual three hours and 
for the rest to letting the Herr Director look after his own 

The relatively greatest possibility of artistic achievement 
exists in the richly subsidised court and other theatres, whose 
chief, employed by the town, is not forced to work for his 
pocket and in addition to worry about meeting his rent. 
Yet even here there are some extremely serious defects. In 
the first place, only in a very few towns, and even there not 
entirely, is it fully recognised that the supreme direction of 
opera should be in the hands of an artist -- of a musician, 
in fact, with an administrative committee under him that 
shall have no power of veto against him in artistic matters. 
Then again at all theatres, the large as well as the small, 
too much is played. No theatre is in a position to give daily 
performances of equal value; it would need at least more 
than twice as many soloists, chorus and orchestra, and more 
than twice as many adequate rooms for rehearsal, to allow 
of a sufficient number of rehearsals taking place without 
over- fatiguing everyone. An opera that has been put aside 
and then revived is bound to suffer if it is not carefully and 
critically rehearsed afresh, especially when long intervals 


elapse between these unrehearsed repetitions. The ensemble 
that has been produced by such vigilant care is imperilled 
when, owing to the absence of the players of one or more 
chief roles , other singers who have studied only their own 
parts, and who, supposing them to have been present at the 
preliminary rehearsals, have been merely looking on, are put 
in with a cursory stage rehearsal. "Guest"-visits of foreign 
artists are the absolute enemies of finished, artistically rounded 
performances. But the so-called "Festival Performances" that 
are nowadays arranged by our theatres with pompous rt- 
clame, and to which famous singers from all parts are in- 
vited who often do not attend even the general rehearsal, 
are the merest absurdity. "Thrift, thrift, Horatio!" 

Need there be a performance every day? This question 
opens up further questions, the answers to which now-a-days, 
when money-making is the war-cry and the box-office state- 
ment trumps, look rather Utopian. Nevertheless I will try 
to give the answers, in spite of their uselessness. Could not 
the public be gradually made to see that it would be better, 
for the same money that is spent on the average in going 
to the theatre, to go less often and pay higher entrance- 
prices, but have thus the certainty of seeing only first-class 
performances, and so get more real elevation instead of often 
very superficial enjoyment? Fewer but better-prepared per- 
formances would then yield about the same receipts. Or, 
and here indeed I touch upon the province of the ap- 
parently impossible will courts, states and towns never 
comprehend that the theatre must be a place not of luxury 
and thoughtless amusement, but of popular education like the 
school, only in a more spiritualised sense, and at any rate 
of higher ethical significance than the church? Will people 
"above" cease to obstruct the perception that noble dramatic 
and musical plays which, if the grievous concept "deficit" 
no longer existed, could be made accessible also to the lower 
classes - - would perform a powerful culture -work, weaken 
the lower instincts and strengthen the higher, to the good 
of the nation that cultivates them? Germany has in many 
things taken a splendid lead. To emancipate the dramatic 

WEINGARTNER, On conducting. 4 


art gradually from private interests , and tend it as an in- 
estimably important part of the life of the people, would not 
this in its way just as much assure Germany's world-position 
as armies and navies? Is it not unpardonable that the 
worthiest works are rarely given, because the public has lost 
touch with them? But why? Simply because it hardly ever 
gets a chance of hearing them. In this vicious circle one 
evil emanates from another. Take GLUCK, for example. Now 
and then one of his sublime operas appears on the German 
stage as a stop- gap , imperfectly rehearsed , badly sung, and 
with worn-out decorations. At the Paris Opera Comique 
"Orfeo" and "Alceste" are stock pieces. Make the experi- 
ment of giving them in Germany in the way they are given 
in Paris, and the public will go to them. Does not the 
positively unheard-of success of the "Midsummer -Night's 
Dream", so finely produced at the "Neues Theater" in Ber- 
lin, prove that many "old Schmoker" - as we piously speak 
of our master- literature - - only need to be given properly 
for an interest to be created in them ? It is just the same 
with the classical music-drama; also with some notable new 
works, which after a few performances have been taken off 
in terror, because the press by zealously asserting that they 
lacked interest kept people away. This would soon have 
been remedied if the directors had only had the courage to 
keep the works on in spite of a temporary falling-off in the 
receipts, and so restored the confidence of the public. In- 
stead of which there was a sigh of "never mind", and the 
old humdrum repertoire of routine went on and goes on for 
better or for worse. In this way CORNELIUS'S "Barber of 
Bagdad" slumbered for decades before it was revived. GOETZ'S 
"Taming of the Shrew" passed out of remembrance, until 
it reappeared in our own day in Berlin, this time to be joy- 
fully welcomed; and VERDI'S delightful "Falstaff" is still as 
good as forgotten. The "Trumpeter" x , however, or "Caval- 
leria" and similar stuff endure and draw full houses. Mundus 

1 The reference is to the comic opera "Der Trompeter von Sak- 
kingen" by VICTOR NESSLER (1841 1890), founded on the mock-heroic 
poem of the same name by J. V. VON SCHEFFEL. [Tr.j 

vult Schundus, jested LISZT with bitter irony; and our theatres 
take the greatest pains to avoid bettering this state of affairs 1 . 

Conviction, conviction a theatrical director should prove 
he possesses this. He can only do so, however, if he is 
independent of daily receipts and press scribblers, and can 
fully and freely fulfil his task of educating the public in the 
noblest sense of the word, -- the public, that does indeed 
too easily incline towards the bad and the superficial, but 
still has enough freshness and netivett to receive the good 
willingly if it is only offered to it. To this end the director 
must in the first place be indeed an artist, who thinks of 
something more than receipts and criticisms ; and in the next 
place a character, who not only knows what he wants, but 
means to fight for it and to get it. 

But an end to these dreams. 

As for the special function of the conductor in the thea- 
tre, WAGNER says very truly that just as the right comprehen- 
sion of the melos of a piece ot music suggests the right tempo 
for it, so the right way of conducting an opera presupposes 
the true comprehension of the dramatic situation on the part 
of the conductor. As a matter of fact he must before all 
things have the stage in his eye. This will give him, con- 
sistently with due fidelity to the markings of the composer, 
the criterion as to whether he shall take the tempo faster or 
slower, how he shall modify it, and where he shall expand 
or contract the volume of orchestral tone. He will not allow 
himself to draw a melody out at length when the phrasing 
should be free and animated; he will not beat out a fast 
tempo, effective as this may be from the merely musical 
point of view, where the dramatic development goes more 
slowly; nor will he elaborate orchestral nuances that drown the 
singers or divert people's attention from the events on the stage. 

Of special importance is his relation to the singers. Only 
a significant individuality can create a significant perform- 
ance, and this only when the individuality can espress itself 
in the performance fully and without hindrance. Drill counts 

T ) The epigram would have no point in a translation. "Schund" 
means literally "rubbish", "offal". [Tr.] 


for nothing; it may be necessary with the less endowed 
singers, who for better or for worse are just put into their 
proper places in the frame of the whole. Admirable artists 
however must have, within this frame, room for the free play 
of their own conceptions, indeed, they must be held to 
the necessity of thinking out their parts for themselves. At 
the piano rehearsals the conductor should in the first place 
impress it strongly on the singers that they must learn their 
parts correctly down to the smallest detail, which is the only 
way to attain precise co-operation between orchestra and 
stage, and so secure the fundamental condition of any good 
performance a faultless ensemble. When, after thorough 
study, individual liberties begin to be taken by the singers, 
he should see that these do not contradict the spirit of the 
whole work - - which he must have completely assimilated, 
or the character of the particular passage. The artistic 
perception of the conductor and of the singers may be meas- 
ured by the degree in which they secure the fine medium 
between rigid correctness and living freedom. 

Once more I must cite WEBER, with whose almost for- 
gotten writings I strongly advise every artist to make himself 
acquainted. In them will be found artistic intuitions of such 
delicacy as to make doubly painful to us the early death of 
this splendid master and the unhappy circumstances that hin- 
dered his full development. He writes in the above-mentioned 
letter to PRAEGER: 

"It is the individuality of the singer that actually and 
unconsciously colours each role. A man with a nimble, flex- 
ible voice and one with a big quality of tone will render 
the same rble in quite different ways, - - the first certainly 
in several degrees more animatedly than the second; and 
yet the composer can be satisfied with both in so far as they 
have rightly comprehended and reproduced the gradations of 
passion he has indicated, each according to his measure. 
But it is the conductor's business to see that the singer does 
not go too far and merely do what seems to him at first 
, sight apt." WEBER thus convincingly lays it down that the 
; worth of an opera conductor is not, as many think, to be 


estimated by how far he is able to comply slavishly with the 
whims of the singers, - - which is routine but not art. 

Further, the conductor should not allow himself to be 
tempted by convenience to make inartistic cuts, and when 
he conducts foreign operas must see to the improvement of 
the translations, which are generally very bad in the matters 
of phraseology, sense and musical declamation; for nothing 
corrupts the artistic feeling of the singers more - - to say 
nothing of the harm done to the whole performance, than 
when they are forced to memorise the conventional doggre'f 
of opera-translations, which is mostly quite unfit for music. 
It is essential, then, that the conductor should understand at 
any rate French and Italian at least well enough to be able 
to make what improvements are necessary. 

On the whole the work of the opera conductor is less 
independent because it relies on and is supported by more 
factors than that of the concert conductor, who alone is 
responsible for the whole of his own performance. 

Anyone in whom the dramatic sense predominates will be 
the better opera conductor; the better concert conductor on 
the other hand will be one whose perceptions are mostly 
purely musical. Anyone in whom both gifts exist in equal 
measure will be equally successful in both styles. 

I must mention one more defect which, in the light of 
pure reason and of all that WAGNER has said and done, 
seems really ludicrous, but which, notwithstanding, is rooted 
in our theatres so deeply as to be almost beyond the pos- 
sibility of extirpation, namely the complete separation of the 
stage management, the machinist's department and the musical 
direction. If a new opera is given on which the theatre does 
not mind spending a little, a commission is sent to a scene- 
painter, -- often to a foreign firm of repute, -- along with 
a text-book, while the stage manager arranges his book and 
the conductor rehearses the singers. When the scenery comes 
to be set up, the stage-manager generally finds that be will 
have to alter his business, since a good deal that he had 
planned will not fit in with that particular scenery. Then 
when the conductor comes in with singers and orchestra it 


is clear that, e. g. , such and such a chorus cannot do its 
musical work properly if it stands with its back to the 
audience, that such and such an actor requires a lot of room 
for his action in a rather long ritornello, while he has been 
allowed only about four square feet; and so on. Then bad 
temper, a scramble, and the best face possible put on it, 
which however only leads to further mischief; and at the 
last rehearsal but one the end of it is that they would all, 
if they could, gladly begin again from the beginning. But 
the day of production is fixed, the booking guaranteed, the 
mere idea of a postponement therefore monstrous; so let it 
go as best it can. This system of work often results in some 
good stories; for example, at three large theatres I have 
known Brynhilde to wake up in quite another stage-setting 
than the one she went to sleep in. Years had elapsed be- 
tween the staging of the "Valkyrie" and of "Siegfried". The 
scenery had been ordered of different painters, who had not 
come to an understanding as to the identity of the scenes 
in the two works. The proposal, however, simply to use in 
"Siegfried" the scenery of the "Valkyrie" was vetoed by the 
chief machinist, on the grounds that for technical reasons 
this scenery could not be put in after the fire-transformation. 
With the careless remark "The public does not notice" they 
went on to the order of the day, and the enchanted Bryn- 
hilde was spirited away each time to another sleeping-place. 
Since however an operatic performance can be artistic 
only when all the factors work together, the proper distri- 
bution of the labour is this: - - When the stage management 
and the music are not in the hands of the same man - 
which is not much to be recommended, since the conductor, 
when he is in the orchestra, cannot possibly attend to every 
detail of the stage picture - - then stage manager and con- 
ductor, before the rehearsals begin, must come to a perfect 
understanding between themselves as to how the work is to 
be done. Both must be clear and of one mind as to the 
atmosphere of the opera, the action, the scenic pictures, the 
tempi, and the dynamic effects, so that later on at the re- 
hearsals only trifling changes may be necessary. Only after 


this preliminary work should the scenic artist and the mach- 
inist receive from stage manager and conductor their precise 
orders, compliance with which, however, does not mean the 
paralysis of their own imagination, which can work more 
freely and fruitfully within the artistic boundaries prescribed 
by the work in question than outside them. 

For this understanding between stage manager and con- 
ductor two things are necessary. In the first place the con- 
ductor must have a knowledge of, an eye for, and an interest 
in the stage, and not merely bury himself in his orchestra 
to the ignoring of everything else; in the second place the 
stage manager must be a man of musical perception and 
musical education, who is just as conversant with the score 
as the conductor is. In my opinion no conductor should be 
appointed to a theatre who has not shown that he can stage 
an opera, and no stage manager who cannot rehearse the 
musical part of the work. It is perfectly nonsensical that 
sometimes people should be made operatic stage managers 
who are not at all musical. The result may be made evident 
by some experiences of my own. I once asked one of these 
people to call a piano rehearsal for the eight Valkyries. At 
the rehearsal there appeared also another lady for whom there 
was nothing to do. Between the stage manager and myself 
the following dialogue ensued: 

Myself: Why have you summoned Frau N. to this rehearsal ? 

Stage Manager'. You asked me to call the Valkyries. 

Myself'. Well, which Valkyrie does Frau N. take? 

Stage Manager: Why, Fricka! 

Some days later the same manager posted up this notice 

- "Orchestral rehearsal for 'Siegfried', for principals and 

chorus" . Everyone knows there is no chorus in "Siegfried". 

During the preparation of BERLIOZ'S "Benvenuto Cellini" 
I saw unloaded before the theatre a number of specimens 
of that statuette of Perseus that is necessary in the third 
Act (Cellini's studio). I asked the stage manager why hie 
had ordered so many, since only one is required; he replied 
that they were counting on further performances, and Cellini 
would have to smash one of these statuettes each time. 

56 - 

Then, to my horror, I realised that the good man thought 
Cellini had to smash the model, instead of the mould out 
of which the statue itself comes. Only by energetic repre- 
sentations in higher quarters could I prevent what would 
have been an indelible blot on our reputations. In most 
cases, however, when I aimed at the removal or at least 
the diminishing of obvious absurdities, I was politely told 
that my place was in the orchestra and that I need not 
worry myself about anything else. Notwithstanding this, how- 
ever, they never gave me sufficient power as regards the or- 
chestra to prevent the engagement of incompetent but favour- 
ed players. 

For these and many other reasons I look upon the four- 
teen years I spent in the theatre as a time of uselessly 
squandered labour, forcible suppression of my capabilities, 
and --a few isolated bright spots excepted vain strugg- 
les to get even one step nearer the ideal. I cannot recall 
it without bitterness. 

Finally, one word more on the art of conducting itself. 
More and more I have come to think that what decides the 
worth of conducting is the degree of suggestive power that 
the conductor can exercise over the performers. At the re- 
hearsals he is mostly nothing more than a workman, who 
schools the men under him so conscientiously and precisely 
that each of them knows his place and what he has to do 
there; he first becomes an artist when the moment comes 
for the production of the work. Not even the most assiduous 
rehearsing, so necessary a pre-requisite as this is, can so 
stimulate the capacities of the players as the force of imag- 
ination of the conductor. It is not the transference of his 
personal will, but the mysterious act of creation that called 
the work itself into being takes place again in him, and, 
transcending the narrow limits of reproduction, he becomes 
a new-creator, a self-creator. The more however his per- 
sonality disappears so as to get quite behind the personality 
that created the work, to identify itself, indeed, with this 
the greater will his performance be. 






Weingartner, Felix 
On conducting